Wind standing for nine months against the power, the Algerians are called to vote Thursday for a presidential they do not want, the ballot being seen as a way for the regime to regenerate.
No polls have been published, but observers expect massive abstention in a country where it was already chronically high in a political regime deemed completely frozen.
While popular protest shows no sign of abating, the poll promises to be « a total fiasco » in terms of participation, says historian Karima Dirèche, a specialist in contemporary Maghreb.
Polling stations abroad, open since Saturday, are almost empty and the few voters are wiped insults and jeers of opponents to the polls. « The diaspora is mobilized against the elections, but it is traditionally conservative and close to power, » said Mrs. Direche, research director at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).
Since February 22, the regime is massively challenged by a movement (« Hirak ») unpublished. After obtaining in April the resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, head of state for 20 years, the « Hirak » requires the dismantling of the entire political « system » in power since independence in 1962.
Pillar of the regime, historically accustomed to the backstage, the high command of the army has openly assumed power since the resignation of Mr. Bouteflika.
He persists in wanting to quickly elect a successor in order to get out of the political and institutional crisis in which the country is plunged. And he swept the ways of « transition » proposed by the opposition and civil society to reform the regime, including the Constitution, which served to legitimize the power of Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
In the absence of candidates, a presidential election initially scheduled for July 4 had been canceled and Algeria has since been headed by an interim president, Abdelkader Bensalah, whose legal mandate has ended for five months, and a government appointed by M Bouteflika two days before his resignation to manage current affairs, headed by a loyal, Noureddine Bedoui.
In the street, Algerians were unusually numerous Friday, last day of mobilization weekly before the polls, to chant their refusal of this presidential election. And deny the assertions of the Chief of Staff of the army, General Ahmed Gaïd Salah, also former support of President Bouteflika, on « the élan popular » elicited by the election.
Children of the « system »
The five candidates (Abdelaziz Belaïd, Benflis Ali, Abdelkader Bengrina, Azzedine Mihoubi and Abdelmajid Tebboune) experienced an electoral campaign – which ended Sunday at midnight – hectic and very complicated, in a climate of increased repression.
They are all considered children of the « system » for their role during the Bouteflika presidency – two were his prime ministers and two others his ministers – but they are mostly blamed for acting as guarantor to the regime by running for the polls.
Their meetings, filtered and under strong police protection, have struggled to fill up even in small rooms, and they were regularly greeted by demonstrations of hostility during their travels.
After 20 years of fraud under the Bouteflika presidency, the assurances of the power – still in the hands of former relatives of the president deposed on the « transparency » and the « sincerity » of the poll did not convince, despite a slight retouching of the electoral law transferring the prerogatives for the organization of the Ministry of the Interior to an « independent Authority ».
The president who will be elected « is already discredited. It will not be recognized by the public and will have a real problem of electoral legitimacy, « said Karima Direche, who » sees the Hirak as a war of attrition « that will continue after the election.
This elected president « will be obliged to govern with what produced the Hirak, ie oppositions and counter-powers that have been structured, » says the historian.
« The army wants to ensure a continuity of power, as it existed under Bouteflika, but it is now impossible. »